Sunday 16 June 2019

Church's clerical abuse crisis now in 'even more disturbing new chapter' - Mary McAleese

Former President Mary McAleese
Former President Mary McAleese

Sarah MacDonald

THE clerical abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is entering an “even more disturbing and disruptive chapter”, former President Mary McAleese has warned.

Speaking in Dublin last night, Dr McAleese said the resignation of Irish bishop Dr John McAreavey in March over his mishandling of child abuser Fr Malachy Finnegan, as well as the clerical abuse scandals in Chile, suggested that Pope Francis was facing a “gargantuan endeavour”.

Dr McAleese also said the Pope’s forthcoming visit to Ireland may be something of a make or break moment for him. She was speaking at the launch of the book ‘The Pope Francis Agenda’, by Fr Donal Dorr, in St Patrick’s College Drumcondra.

Citing veteran Vatican watcher Robert Mickens, she said he had noted that esteem and affection for Pope Francis was widespread in Ireland and that this was reflected in the interest in his visit and the large numbers planning to attend the papal Mass in the Phoenix Park.

However, Mickens also warned: “The majority of people in Ireland also give Francis low marks in his handling of the sex abuse crisis.”

Dr McAleese also highlighted the warning of the former editor of ‘The Tablet’, Catherine Pepinster, who said the Pope was “failing” to tackle the abuse issue”.

She also said that the abuse “crisis now threatens to engulf his papacy and do lasting damage to Francis’s own reputation”.

In an interview with RTÉ’s ‘Marian Finucane Show’ two weeks’ ago, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said it would be important that the Pope address the issue of abuse “because the wounds are there, and new wounds are emerging”.


However, Dr Martin revealed on Wednesday that he had no definitive answer from the Vatican as to whether the Pope will or will not meet survivors of clerical abuse and abuse in Church-run institutions.

Pope Francis. Photo: Reuters
Pope Francis. Photo: Reuters

Responding to the archbishop’s comments, clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins told ‘Today with Miriam O’Callaghan’ that she believed the

Pope should meet survivors, including representatives of the industrial schools, Magdalene laundries and mother and baby homes, “as a recognition of those horrors”.

The revelations which had emerged since the last papal visit “have been horrific”, she said.

Ms Collins said the Vatican’s curia “have this idea, if we don’t talk about this issue, there won’t be any attention given to it. We don’t want to do anything like have the Pope meet survivors because that will only bring the issue up in the media”.

Calling them “delusional”, she warned that ignoring an issue “is not going to make it go away”.

At the World Meeting of Families, the Pope, she said, needed to “commit to firm actions” and say what was he going to do “to stop this cancer in the Church”.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in her address last night, Dr McAleese took Pope Francis to task over his failure to reform the “clearly unscientific Church teaching which says that homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law”.

She hit out at the “judgmentalism” of this teaching and the “uncompromising harshness of the language” which she said were not assuaged by Pope Francis’s more conciliatory statements.

The former head of state also accused Pope Francis of offering “no coherent plan for the future inclusion of women beyond the sticking plaster of a few token mid-ranking appointments”.

Dr McAleese also rebuffed those in the Vatican who believed Ireland had abandoned its values to a “selfish secularist mentality”.

Irish Independent

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